Friday, April 6, 2012


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For anxious seconds, Chax strove to make some sense of the shape. As he stared, the Kollen shivered and Chax felt a fluttering wave through the substance around him. The passage flattened, and suddenly light shone up from below, illuminating the dark shape with a dazzling fringe. Chax now recognized it as one of the Kollen's mouthparts - one that acted as a grasper.

The passage continued to close around Chax, and the grasper advanced towards him. He raised his claw to defend himself, and warded off one tentative advance from the great clumsy appendage. The passage walls grew closer, tighter... Chax realized what was happening. The Kollen was trying to throw him outside, via the ingestion port. But some of its systems were not working in concert with the rest, for Chax's foot was still trapped in the irised entryway. The Kollen, to the degree that it had a mind at all, certainly would not care if it tore Chax's limbs off while evicting him.

Chax decided to stop fighting and allow himself to be ejected; he could always re-enter the Kollen through the hole he'd made in the blister. He tried to pull his foot through into the passage, but as he strained, he felt some other mechanism grasp his foot and start to pull him back through the entryway! Rational thought yielded to panic. He struck wildly about him, opening great slits in the passage wall that were yet only tiny cuts from the Kollen's perspective. The passage squeezed, the grasper launched its massive but uncoordinated blows, and Chax, unable to stay and unable to leave, was driven nearly to despair. In mounting frustration, he braced back with his forelimb and pivot leg against the peristaltic waves of the passage, and wriggled his rear support leg backward. Straining, he succeed in pushing this leg through the entryway. Immediately, the unknown mechanism that had hold of his trapped foot grabbed his other foot as well. Chax scissored his rear legs and strained to force the entry way open.

The grasper arm lunged forward again. Chax found the dim outlines of an idea. As it advanced, he locked his foreclaw against one of its hard outer edges and stiffened his own body as much as he could. The grasper, not detecting any mass within its cupping palm, pushed forward more and more to try to take hold of Chax, pressing Chax further and further back through the passage and into the entryway. The mechanism on the other side pulled harder. The power in Chax's tensed muscled was peaking. Whatever fate awaited him on the other side, Chax hoped he would have strength left to meet it.

But the balance was tipping. The cuts Chax had made in the passage walls were releasing a bloody sap that made things slippery, and Chax felt encouraging progress. He kicked out with his legs and pushed against the grasper with all the force he could summon, and the Kollen gave way. There was a grand shudder, a soundless moment of blackness and unbearable pressure, and he popped back through the dilated iris into the Kollen's main interior. After this dark danger and his strongest exertions, Chax was back where he had started.

He inhaled great breaths of air and strove to reorient himself. The area was full of the Kollen's diffuse light, and brighter rays streamed down from the opening he'd made in the blister above. He heard the chattering of the furious maintenance drones and smelled the sour reek of their repair fluids. Chax's jump leg throbbed with relief from pain. He squirmed about to regain his footing and take a defensive stance to face the unknown... until sight and smell brought him to a halt.

It was Aun. Aun had grasped his feet and pulled him through.

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